Like a Virgin
Picture it: Twenty shades of pink, from powder to hot, were pasted across the walls and plastered over the furniture of the Hello Kitty Café in downtown Daegu, South Korea. The dainty chandelier hung from the ceiling – a plastic, glass-imitating object dully glistening the reflection of light. Myself, and a handful of ladies in their 20’s, nestled in a booth near the storefront window speaking of dating, men and sex. Suddenly, there was a rise in the conversation: One of them slipped us the penis park information.
“Wait… What?! Nooo…” Were the exclamations as we all giggled and blushed and listened intently. One of the ladies went on to confirm that this was indeed true: South Korea has a “penis park.” Now, before your imagination runs wild, these penises are not connected to the bodies of exhibitionists congregating, and flailing their Johnsons back and forth through the air in fields of green. On the contrary, there are finely sculpted wood and stone carvings of the male anatomy’s longing member, erected in a park by the sea, with varied depictions and interpretations of said member. By this, I was obviously intrigued.
That one chilly day in the spring at Hello Kitty Café had me sprung with determination of reaching such a pinnacle point in my travels of fascination and curiosity in Korea.
What could these Koreans have been thinking? I asked myself this as I researched such a nutty idea. Was this a way for them to express their seemingly conservative sexual nature? Was there an outbreak of women who had to have it, but hadn’t and this was their gathering place of worship? Was it an overly exaggerated display of men celebrating their… manhood?
I knew there had to be an explanation for such cockiness. Eventually, I found at least two basic stories, with several variations. When I finally made it to Haesindang Park, better known as penis park to foreigners, the brochure stated that the story goes as follows:
Though the year is never specified, legend has it that a man engaged to a woman took her out to sea to harvest seaweed, and promised to return for her. Later that day there was a vicious storm, and he couldn’t come for her. The young woman, abandoned at sea, was swept away by the crashing waves and drowned. Since her death, the villagers began to notice there were no more fish to catch, and since fishing was their livelihood, they decided to offer phallic carvings to the unwed, angry virgin to make amends.
The other story, which is definitely more climatic, is of the young woman and her lover – who were to be married – had agreed to meet at a place near the coast. Sadly, her lover never came, and she threw herself into the sea, drowning to death. As with the original story, villagers were unable to catch fish, and believed it was connected to the young woman’s suicide. They thought it sad that the woman died without ever knowing the pleasure between lovers, and decided to offer the phallic carvings in her honor. Some stories go as far as saying the men were encouraged to deposit their bodily fluids into the sea… Well, sure enough, the sea men’s contributions worked: the fish slowly returned, and all of the villagers were happy again.
The park and the legend is said to symbolize joy, spirituality and sexuality.
Haesindang Park is located in Sinnam, just 12 miles outside of Samcheok in the Gangwon Province. The cost of the park, while cheap, seems to go up with the passing years of its growing popularity, and is only $3/3,000 KWR. The bus ride there from the Samcheok Express Bus Terminal is about 45 minutes. The park is along the seaside, and has gorgeous views. There were Korean families, groups of men and groups of older women all out enjoying the beautiful day and the erect “missiles” as one group of Korean women over 50 affectionately called it as they heartily chuckled to themselves at my expense.
The following links are also great resources to get you started on what is sure to be a smashing good time at the penis park:
To get to Samcheok from Daegu, get to Dongbu Bus Terminal. You can take the red line to Dongdaegu station and catch a cab there or walk (7-10 minutes), or you can take bus 518. There are other buses that stop there; to find out which buses stop there, contact the Korean Transportation Hotline at 02-1330. To get there from Seoul, the directions are listed in the Visit Korea web link.
But don’t despair, Haesindang Park is more than just dicking around (D’Oh!), it also has beautiful views of the East Sea. It’s a nice place to relax, take a long stroll in the sun, and experience the calming, crashing waves of a crystal clear sapphire sea.